Friday, December 26, 2008

A Christmas Bokeh Project

DIY Bokeh Effects

The Christmas holidays are a great time for photographic fun with the lights on the Christmas tree, candles, and other holiday lighting displays.

If, like me, you live in a northern climate where December nights are usually cold and snowy, indoor tree lighting is much preferred. There are some tutorials available on the web that show you how to create overlays in front of the lens with cutouts that act as the aperture, and combined with a fast lens (large maximum aperture - i.e., f/2 to f1.4) you'll get the out of focus (OOF) highlights with the same shape as the cutouts. Popularly called bokeh, these OOF shapes are the same shape as the aperture -- usually circular in a good lens. However, by using these cutouts in front of the lens, you'll get bokeh the same shape as the cutouts.

Cokin Filter Holder and Gel-filter mount with cutout.

My technique differs from the other ones online. First of all, I decided to use a Cokin filter holder to place the cutouts in front of the lens, rather than cobbling something together with tape. Use a gel filter-holder in the Cokin filter unit to fold the piece of black paper that we'll use.

Second, instead of cutting my own holes with an sharp hobby knife, I used punches easily found at craft stores. For the snowflake, I used a 15mm wide snowflake punch that I bought at Michaels' for about $3. Since these punches can only go so far from the edge of the paper, I found it was easier to cut a square into the larger piece of black paper and then tape the smaller piece of paper with the punched hole over the square, and then place that into the gel-filter adapter on the Cokin filter holder. This is really pretty quick and easy, allowing you to experiment with different shapes - either done freehand or with a punch.

Try different shapes!

If you don't have a Cokin filter holder -- they are easily available online from B&H, Adorama, and Freestyle Photo (and ebay). They are cheap, and allow you to also use a multitude of cool filters on your SLR (which are beyond the scope of this blog post for now). The filters typically have a ring that you screw into the front of a lens -- 52, 55, 58 mm are typical sizes for filter rings. Make sure you get the right size to fit your fast PRIME lens (not a zoom). Your lens can be a 50mm focal length or 30, 45, 60 or 85mm, but the WIDEST aperture should be f/1.8.

The color photo was made shooting wide-open and with the tree and lights completely out of focus. That gave me the large snowflakes. If you shoot a subject close-up with OOF highlights in the background, you'll get a nice effect.

The key here is that the snowflake pattern acts as the aperture, and 15mm is a good choice for the aperture size. Experiment with multiple shapes on the same piece of black paper, or repeated identical shapes, for different effects. You'll need to focus manually here, because the AF won't be able to focus with the shaped cutouts in front of the lens.

If you need to do this RIGHT NOW and can't wait for a Cokin holder, you can always use some gaffer's tape to hold the black paper mask in place in front of the lens. Not as elegant, but it works.

Happy Holidays!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Local Book Review - Historic Photos of Ann Arbor!

A Review of Historic Photos of Ann Arbor

Last week, I received a book to review from Turner Publishing Co. I'm a big fan of photographs of known places from the past, and know that in many instances, what we see out there is just scratching the surface. Any town that has an educated populace, a university, and close proximity to a larger urban area, ought to have plenty of vintage photographs documenting its activities, people, disasters, parades, architecture, merchants, and civic organizations. Often, we get to see a few dozen images at best, and the rest, we have to assume, are stashed away, filed, or forgotten somewhere. Since photography has existed for about 170 years, there have to be many thousands of images of large cities. As the technology of the medium improved and the number of photographers grew, one would imagine that in some cases, we could have an almost complete photographic record of some villages and towns from their inception to the present day. Obviously, the more one goes westward, the more likely that scenario is going to be.

With my thoughts above in mind, I now review Historic Photos of Ann Arbor with text and captions by Alice Goff and Megan Cooney by Turner Publishing Company. Both authors are from the Bentley Historical Library at the University of Michigan. The Bentley is an amazing repository, and as the source of the photographs and information contained in this book, it's actually surprising to me that the book wasn't published by the University of Michigan Press. It's also somewhat of a surprise that some prominent Ann Arbor historians were not involved in this book. However, sometimes a fresh look needs to be taken by others, and in this instance, I think the authors did a splendid job assembling a variety of images of Ann Arbor from the 1860s to the 1960s. One hundred years is a lot of time to cover, and thankfully, the majority of the photographs pre-date the 1950s. Even though the University of Michigan is at the center of the growth of Ann Arbor, I appreciate that most of the photographs are peripheral to the University, and show more of the interface between town and gown. I should also point out that I had not seen any of the photos that appear in this book elsewhere (or at least I don't recall seeing). That is probably due to the outstanding archives at the Bentley Library -- and an appreciated bonus is that each image in Historic Photos of Ann Arbor is cataloged in the Bentley Library with the data available at the end of the book. I imagine the authors must have had some hard choices figuring out which photos to include in the book. No photographers are credited in the book, but I have to assume that such information is available from the Bentley Historical Library. I know that in many such archives, photographers are often anonymous, unless the photographs came from the estate of a photographer. During the late 1800s and early 1900s there were a number of portrait studios in the area, so I wonder who took the photographs. That's probably of very minor interest to most readers, as the photos are the real story.

Anyone with an interest in the history of Ann Arbor will like this book, and the breadth of the photographs really shows the history of the town. Many readers will appreciate the architecture that's long gone (and some still standing), as well as seeing how much has changed over the years. Today, we talk about buying "local," but as you will see in the photographs, local manufacturing and agriculture was a given state of affairs before 1940. Some may see the photos of long-extinct streetcars, and wonder, as we rethink our urban lifestyle, when such modes of transportation will be feasible once again. I think that the authors did a reasonable balance with the captions -- enough information to put the images into context without going into too much interpretation.

Back to my original train of thought -- this book fulfills much of the criteria of a photographic history, and no single book can contain everything, nor satisfy every varied interest. I do believe that if you enjoy seeing your town "back in the day," then you'll enjoy looking through the pages of Historic Photos of Ann Arbor. Since the photographs are large, there is a lot of detail to look at, and you may find some recognizable surprises throughout. The hardcover book is well-laid out, and at 205 pages, most of which are filled with photographs, is a deal at the price of $39.95. This book is available at most area bookstores.

Publishers Information: Historic Photos of Ann Arbor. Text and captions by Alice Goff and Megan Cooney, 2007. Turner Publishing Co., Nashville, TN. 205 pp., hardcover. ISBN-13:978-1-59652-389-0. (615)255-2665.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Olympus XA Joy...

There are a lot of small 35mm cameras out there, but if I had to pick one that is a favorite, it would have to be the terrific little Olympus XA and its descendants. For starters, it's a real rangefinder camera, has aperture-priority shooting, and its clamshell case protects the metal-bodied camera from the usual bumps and debris, and is easily carried in a pocket. It runs on a silver-oxide battery, and has a wonderful 6-element 35mm f2.8 lens. It's a more useable camera than my Rollei 35TE, and far more compact than the much later Olympus Stylus which is AF, requires a larger battery, and is noisy. It's the most compact 35mm rangefinder camera that is capable of producing excellent quality images. The one drawback might be that the flash is a separate unit, but the way I use this camera, I almost never need the flash. It also comes with a tripod socket, so with a tiny tripod, you can use the camera on a table for long exposures. It would be nice if the ISO setting would go as high as 1600, but 800 isn't too shabby.

This photo from Erich Zechar exemplifies the beauty of this camera:

I've had my XA for a number of years, and paid $50 for it -- with the original case and flash. More recently, I acquired an Olympus XA-2. The XA-2 isn't quite as full-featured as the XA (it has zone focusing), but it's still pretty good. The fun thing with the XA is that because it is easily carried about, I often leave it in my messenger bag as the camera that's there when I need one. As a result, it may take me months to go through a roll of film, and I have often forgotten all about what might be on a roll of film when I finally process it. The upside of that, is that it's always a surprise when I get the film developed. The downside is that I sometimes have to rack my brain about where I took the photos.

I'm supposing the Vagina Monologues was in town. Either that, or someone just really loves vagina, But then, who doesn't?

See what I mean? Random photos (hence the name of this blog, huh?) that I have to go through and attempt to figure out their context.

At the 2008 Summer Art Fair. I am pretty certain I also shot this with a Diana.

At my workplace. I am pretty sure I shot this because I loved the sky at that moment.

Only a short time ago -- back in September at the Found Gallery, where four of us had a show.

On a 24 exposure roll of old Kodak HD 400, I had several months worth of imagery. I think I'll put b&w in next time, just to vary things a bit.

There are a lot of resources on the web regarding the Olympus XA, and I'll point out my favorites:

The Olympus XA, XA2, and others are easily found on ebay, occasionally at thrift stores, and sometimes in a drawer somewhere. They are compact 35mm cameras with excellent Olympus optics and are a favorite of photographers that like having a dependable camera for those times when a full-featured and very obvious SLR just won't do. As a result, the used prices are higher than many other cameras of that vintage. When you find yourself one, keep it.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Kodak's Ektar 100 Film

New Film!

For those people caliming that the "sky is falling" when it comes to the film industry, I'd like to point out that Kodak has introduced a new color (C-41) film.  Yes, Kodak -- the same company that seems to be bipolar at times - are they a digital or a film company?  They are a photographic company (which is what they need to stress), and it's nice to see them come out with a new film.  Kodak claims that it's the finest-grained color print film, very saturated, easily scanned, and sharp .  It's taken a while to get some -- it was introduced at Photokina in Europe, and has only very recently been available in the US.    I have been looking forward to trying some out, and I ordered 4 rolls from B&H (see link at bottom of the blog page).  I shot one roll last weekend  when I was on a trip to Grand Rapids with four other Crappy Camera Club members to see the Richard Avedon exhibit at the Grand Rapids Art Museum.  I used my Nikon N80 and a 24-120 Nikkor AF-D lens.

Impressions -- First of all, Ektar 100 is a very fine-grained film that is purported to replace the UC-100 film (Ultra Color).  The ISO is 100, but I have seen online posts that indicate one might want to overexpose slightly (set meter to ISO 80).  Second, the film looks a lot more like results from Ektachrome .  Very sharp, contrasty, and saturated.   I took my roll to Ritz Camera yesterday for develop only and scan to CD.   After I opened up the images in Paint Shop Pro (the latest version is Ultimate X2), they seemed to be too contrasty, so I adjusted the curves, and after that, they all looked quite nice.  So, that may be just a matter of the Ritz scanner not yet being calibrated for this film.  However, the color saturation reminds me somewhat of results I have gotten from a LOMO camera.  Not necessarily a bad thing, IMHO.    The photos looked fine.  In fact, they really did remind me of slides that I have shot in the past.  Kodak acknowledges (on their web site) that Ektar 100 may replace E-6 films for users that like the look, but can only get C-41 processing where they live.  

Grand River

The film is also designed to be easier to scan, but I haven't tried scanning it myself as yet.  When I get some time this weekend, I may do that.   Overall, I like the film so far -- it's really so superior to the C-41 films that I typically shoot (Kodak Gold and Fuji Superia), that I may decide it's worth the extra cost for a "pro" C-41 film.    Right now I have another roll in my Olympus RC camera, with the ISO set at 80.  I look forward to seeing more results!

Links to Ektar Information:
I'm encouraged that Kodak is producing new films and improving the technology.  Someone there knows that film still has a future.

Marc and Mike

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Finally -- A book project is finished.

I have had several fits and starts on writing a book on toy camera photography, and while I do plan on finishing it, another project has gone to completion. Recognizing that my work with Polaroids was about done due to the discontinuation of the film, I put together about 80 of my favorite Series 600 and SX-70 produced images into a book.
A Polaroid Elegy - My last year with a Polaroid camera - is now available on Blurb. Culling images to keep the book down to a manageable size and price was the hardest part. It's also the culmination of a year with the SX-70 camera, and one that I wish I had taken to using many years earlier. The paperback and hardcover prices are pretty reasonable, and take a look online. Once I have used up my last few packs of Polaroid 600 film, that's it. No more. I'm reserving the last two packs for a special project, whatever that might be.

Edited: Here are the books, and my now-broken SX-70 camera!

Finally in my hands

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Google and a Life® Time of images

According to various news sources, and the Google Blog page -- Google will host the thousands of images in the Life Magazine archives, making available some of the most poignant and influential photographs of the 20th century.

According to Google - "Only a very small percentage of these images have ever been published. The rest have been sitting in dusty archives in the form of negatives, slides, glass plates, etchings, and prints. We're digitizing them so that everyone can easily experience these fascinating moments in time. Today about 20 percent of the collection is online; during the next few months, we will be adding the entire LIFE archive — about 10 million photos."

Ten million photos. Holy smoke. That's a lot of images. From one archive. I have to hand it to Google -- they think big. Their search engine and image banking ought to reap rewards for researchers and educators. I did a quick search today, and the selection of images brought up under my searches was astounding.

I leave you with this screen capture of my search of "Ansel Adams" -- only one page of 5 pages of results from thee Google-Life archive:

I'm sure that this will get a LOT of use.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

One Subject, Many Possibilities

Those people that know my style of photography are never surprised when I am on a photo shoot - road trip and find me trying to decide which camera(s) to bring along on that particular day. We often hear the refrain "the camera doesn't matter." I beg to differ. The camera matters a lot. Whether I want to shoot with a toy camera, a Nikon SLR, film or digital, 35mm or 120 film, hell -- even a Polaroid, these are all choices that make the final image of any given subject a reflection of the camera and materials used to capture it. Here is a case in point:

Take one exotic vegetable that I have only seen previously on Flickr -- Broccoli Romanesque (actually a cauliflower), which I finally picked up at a local store. Could I capture its interesting quality? Apart from the obvious Fibonacci/Fractal connection, the broccoli head and the leaves surrounding it had great texture and possibilities for a still-life.

So, before we had the vegetable for dinner, I spent an evening photographing it with several different cameras set on a matte black backdrop and used one incandescent light for the light source.

Shot with the Nikon D70s and the 60mm macro lens:

Using the Polaroid SX-70 and 600 series film:
Edible Art

Using my Canon Powershot, and shooting in manual b&w mode:

veggie texture

and finally, shot with my Hasselblad 501C, 80mm lens, and a +3 diopter on Fortepan 200 film (probably shot at f5.6 here):
Romanesque Broccoli

Obviously, each camera helped me create different images. I love the Polaroid image and the Hasselblad shot is very nice. So, I think this shows that the camera does make a difference, as does the person using it. Maybe the next test is to take the same camera, same subject, same set, and let a few different photographers shoot. Could be an interesting exercise!

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Kodalith Fun at Quincy Mine

While I was at the Quincy Mine near Houghton a few weeks ago, I shot one roll of Kodalith (ISO 12) film -- and knew that I would get some nice contrasty images, as it isn't normally used as a pictorial film. In typical usage, one develops Kodalith in a high-contrast A/B lith developer for pure b&w with no gray. However, there are some tricks to allow its use as a pictorial (gray-tones) film. I have used Diafine in the past, and got pretty decent results, but in this case I developed under red safelight by inspection in Dektol (1:8) for about 3.5 minutes. 1:10 might be even better, but I am happy with the stark look I got from these ruins of Quincy Mine. I really like my results, and this is not something you can get digitally, boys and girls.

Quincy Mine No. 2 Shafthouse and ruins

The raking light at the end of the day really made the shots stand out.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Think about it

Think about it
Originally uploaded by mfophotos.

You have heard some pretty nasty things coming out of the mouths of McCain/Palin lately. I keep hearing the word "socialist" applied to Obama's platform. If redistributing the wealth means socialism, then, Palin is one, too. Giving $$ from the oil companies to every Alaskan makes it a socialist state. The US has one of the largest disparities in wealth right now, and the middle class, however you wish to define it, is being squeezed by so many factors. I also hear that "taxes are unpatriotic." Excuse me, talking heads, but taxes pay for all the things that we take for granted. Schools. Fire protection. Clean water. Infrastructure. Don't want any of that? Then I suggest that you move to somewhere like say, the Congo.

Now, our country is faced with two wars, a serious financial crisis, job losses in many industries, unemployment for many, underemployment for many more, and so on. When I saw this cornerstone at the firehouse in L'Anse, MI, it brought home all the things that our country accomplished at the helm of Franklin D. Roosevelt and the "new "deal" democrats.
1. Infrastructure -- how many of us have been to state parks, national parks, traveled over roads, bridges, used city services, drank clean water, enjoyed electricity? That didn't appear overnight, and much of it was the result of WPA programs. The Works Progress Administration built schools, firehouses, county courthouses, city halls, bridges, sidewalks, roads, dams, park facilities, hospitals, and more. It put people to work and much of the infrastructure in rural areas still dates from the WPA.
2. Social Security -- there was never any safety net for working class people unless they worked for some far-sighted company like Eastman Kodak. Social Security changed all that. The rich don't need it, and never did.

So, what we need is to re-energize our country with a modern day version of the WPA. That will only happen under an Obama/Biden administration. Please vote putting your country first. It's the only one we have.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

A gem of a show - Accidental Mysteries at NMU

From Random Camera Blog

Last weekend Adrienne and I drove up to Marquette to visit our daughter Marjorie, now a junior in the Art & Design School at NMU. We did a lot of driving around and a lot of photography, which I'll discuss in another post. Marjorie told me about the new exhibit at the DeVos Art Museum at NMU, titled "Accidental Mysteries." It's one well-done show on "vernacular photography." Many of the images were very memorable, some quite equal to something we might expect from some famous photographers. However, all of these were shot by unknown photographers from the past, when simple box and folding cameras produced the majority of images by the masses. Some of the images have been digitally enlarged - to stunning effect. The show write-up from NMU states:
"Accidental Mysteries, originally exhibited at the Sheldon Art Galleries in St. Louis, Missouri in 2005, is a unique collection of found photographs collected by John and Teenuh Foster. Over ninety images are on display in the exhibition, selected from a collection of hundreds, found over the years in flea markets, antique shops and auctions."

For collectors of snapshots, the photos presented are real gems. Many exhibited a degree of forethought that separates them from the run-of-the snapshot in an old family album. Well-mounted and displayed, the images in the exhibit were a delight to pore over. I found myself laughing and sometimes amazed at some of the details in the photos that gave me an appreciation for the labor it took to choose the images for the exhibit.
From Random Camera Blog

Vernacular photography is an interesting concept from the art world. I'm not sure I can come up with a better term at the moment, but the exhibit, which runs until November 15 is worth seeing if you are going to be anywhere in the Upper Peninsula. Northern Michigan University is a fine school, and the DeVos Art Museum is a gem for sure. The museum has featured a number of excellent exhibits, and though it may be small, the exhibits are wonderfully curated. The Accidental Mysteries exhibit is one that I'd love to see in the Ann Arbor area!

From Random Camera Blog

DeVos Art Museum
Northern Michigan University
1401 Presque Isle Ave.
Marquette, MI 49855

The DeVos Art Museum is open every day, but check their web site for specific times.

Also, check out the Accidental Mysteries Web Site!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Back to the U.P.

A short trip to Marquette this weekend, and hopefully, there will still be some fall color there. I hope to make it over to Hancock and finally photograph the Quincy Mine, which is a pretty damn photogenic place with decayed building and remains of a mining operation.

On another note, I finally developed a few rolls of 35mm left over from the summer. One of them has a series of shots from Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, and more specifically, Munising Falls:
Munising Falls

Shot with my Nikon F3, on APX 100 film. Great uniform light before the sun peeked over the trees, too. I'm becoming a fan of this camera, and more b&w work with nature, especially when the light is like that.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

MiPHS Show Coming on 10/26

Once again, it's almost time for the annual Michigan Photographic Historical Society's Photographica show at the Novi Community Center. There are usually about 50 tables from vendors, collectors, and exhibitors. For the past several years I have been at the MiPHS sale table, and I'll be there agin this year with more low-priced goodies from books to odd equipment, cameras, lenses, and so forth. You never know what will turn up at this show, so that is why it is always a fun event. I no longer go to the other camera shows, as they have gotten smaller with only a few vendors. The MiPHS show has images, postcards, cameras, books, film, and hardware, so it really does cater to a broader crowd than just camera collectors.

The lowdown:
37th Annual MiPHS Photographica Show and Sale
Sunday, October 26, 2008
10 am - 4 pm
Novi Community Center, 45175 West 10-mile Road
Novi, MI

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

The Infinite Landscape Exhibition

The University of Michigan's Museum of Art has been operating an off-site gallery (1301 South University, Ann Arbor ) dedicated to photography while the construction of the UMMA addition has closed down the museum. For photography lovers, that has been a wonderful opportunity to see photography-only exhibits that have, for the most part, been well-executed.

The latest exhibit, "The Infinite Landscape: Master Photographers from the UMMA Collection" runs until January 4, 2009, but I would see it as soon as possible, and as many times as possible. Landscape photography is a broad genre, and this exhibit definitely showcases some of its ardent practitioners - Ansel Adams, Paul Caponigro, Brett Weston, William Henry Jackson, Eliot Porter, and Michael Kenna, to name just a few. If one is an Ansel Adams fan, you'll be pleased with the 6 images of his that are shown (the Aspens is my favorite). However, landscape photography IS infinite. Whether one photographs an intimate view of a pond (Nenuphars by Atget) or the enormity of the larger Yosemite Valley (Adams, William Henry Jackson, Carleton Watkins), the "landscape" can be almost anything. I was pleased to see a Calotype from William Henry Fox Talbot - Loch Katrine, as well as an Orotone print from Edward S. Curtis of Canyon de Chelley (an Orotone is a print made on glass with gold pigment painted over the emulsion -- an interesting effect). I don't know how big the UMMA photographic holdings are, but this show certainly has some breadth to it. Although I wasn't especially impressed with the Eliot Porter Cibachrome prints, or the Yellow Umbrella by John Butho, there are plenty of other photographers' works there I did enjoy. I really liked the Two Barns by Minor White - fantastic use of raking light from a setting sun against, well, two barns. Brett Weston's images engaged me, especially the untitled image of succulent plants. Only one image from his father - China Cove, was in the exhibit, and perhaps it's only because the UMMA lacks other Edward Weston landscapes that they did not include more (yes, I'm an unabashed Edward Weston fan). It's hard to say anything negative about Michael Kenna's work - his sublime landscape imagery is a wonderful counterpoint to the stark sharpness of Adams' Monolith in Yosemite. I was also pleased to see some works by Kartesz, Josef Sudek, Karl Struss, Walker Evans, and Peter Henry Emerson. Steichen's Balzac photogravure is perhaps one of the more famous images on display, though perhaps the weakest landscape. There are, it seems, an infinite number of ways to portray a landscape, and although this exhibit runs for several is not infinite, so I suggest that you go and pay a visit.

Monday, September 29, 2008

World Toy Camera Day 2008

This year, WTCD is OCTOBER 18th.  That's a Saturday.  Get your rear in gear and go shoot with a toy camera!  The flickr group is:

The Found Show

Last week, Mike Myers and I set up the photographs for the A3C3 show at the Found Gallery in Kerrytown. This was a different type of show for us, as we are showing off our work in a store devoted to antiques and art made from "found" items. Mary, the owner, is enthusiastic over the show, and has incorporated a vintage photography motif to accompany the images.



I'm pleased with how the exhibit has come together. This show is comprised of the work of only 4 of us, which I believe is a better way to showcase our work. Having only one or two images in a larger show with a dozen other photographers is definitely less exposure for a photographer. With more pieces on the wall you can better connect with your viewers, and potential buyers, since you are offering them more choices. I know, it's not really about the "selling." Riight. Almost anyone that sells a photo will tell you that it's the best validation of your work.


We have the reception this Friday, October 3, from 7 - 9 pm. Receptions are often when one makes the sales. In this case, having the photos in a store for 3 weeks will undoubtedly be even better. I'll be interested in seeing how people react to the photos by Bill Bresler, John Baird, Mike Myers and me. Some people don't understand the Crappy Camera part, but once they view the images, I believe they leave their misconceptions behind, and see the art. Despite the onslaught of digital imagery and the pervasiveness of Photoshop, people are often quite surprised at what we can do with relatively simple cameras. In the end, the photograph speaks for itself.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Vintage Argus: Contemporary Images

The show opening was great! Matt, John, Mike, Ross and I met on the afternoon of the 9th to hang to show. It didn't take us all that long, and I think they made great choices on placing the images. It looked great, and on Friday night, the 12th, we had a wonderful reception. I'd estimate 60 people showed up, and many stayed for a long time to socialize, eat and drink, and view the show and the Argus Museum. I was glad that Carol and Martha, Gene's daughters were there to be part of the reception, and I believe it was a feeling of closure for all of us, as the show was dedicated to their parents, Gene and George O'Neal.


MiPHS also was one of the hosts for the reception, and a few MiPHS members attended -- I would have liked to have seen a few more there, but for a few, it was their first time at the Argus Museum. I also think we may have gained a member or two in the process.


I spent a lot of time talking to new visitors to the museum, and I think everyone really enjoyed our photographs. There is a nice variety, and overall, it was a pretty easy show to put together. We had plenty of wine and food, and ran out of time before the refreshments ran out!


Today, four of us were at the museum to be part of the Old West Side Home Tour. The Argus Museum was part of the tour for the first time since the Argus building was reclaimed from UM and renovated in 1987. 187 people viewed the museum and the photo exhibit today, and it was a lot of fun talking to first-time visitors to the museum, most who never knew it was there, even though they lived closeby. Lots of nice comments on the photography, and it was a pleasant way to spend a mostly rainy afternoon.

Come and see the show...

The exhibit is up until October 12, and will be viewable 9 to 5 pm during the week. The Argus Museum is located at 535 West William Street, Ann Arbor, MI.

Added 09/19 -- Write-up online in the Ann Arbor Chronicle.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

On With The Show

Upcoming Show alert!

It's been a while in the planning, but things have come together for the second exhibit of work done by a number of participants in the Ann Arbor Area Crappy Camera Club (A3C3). I'm organizing this show, and it's been something that I have wanted to do for quite a while. Having a show with contemporary images shot by vintage Argus cameras -- exhibited in the same building that once housed the factory the cameras were assembled in. I doubt that has happened before in the USA.

We don't have a huge space to show in, but we will feature about 10 photographers, with 1 or 2 images each. The idea is to showcase our talent, and what one can still do with 50 year old Argus cameras (made right here in Ann Arbor, MI). I hope the visitors enjoy the display.

The second aspect of all this is that we are dedicating the show to the memory of Gene and George O'Neal -- two people that instigated the idea of the Argus Museum (where the show is held), and played a large part in the Michigan Photographic Historical Society. Most A3C3 members never knew Gene, as she passed away in 2005. George however, became a regular attendee and participant in our outings until just before his death last year. The A3C3 wanted to also honor him with this show. I think he would have been overjoyed with this.

Well, off to work on the show materials, and hope that 2 more photographers come through with the images this weekend. We hang the show on Tuesday night. I hope to see a lot of happy faces Friday night.

ps. - Thanks to Ralph Krawczyk Jr. for designing the show announcement. The hours on Sunday 9/14 are my mistake -- it's really 12-5 pm.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Medium Format Wonders

Old Pontiac sign, Chelsea
Originally uploaded by mfophotos.

Ever since Big George's shut down their film lab, I have been shooting a lot less color with my medium-format cameras, whether Diana or Hasselblad. It's a shame, because even though I do shoot a lot of monochrome images, there are times when color is the better option. I put off developing a bunch of 120 film until last week, when I dropped off a bunch of rolls at Huron camera in Dexter. Some of the rolls were pretty recent, and one camera had been working through a roll of color 620 -- my Kodak Medalist II. It makes no sense that the camera with the fewest exposures would take the longest to finish up! Anyhow, I am quite pleased with the expired Kodak GB200 that was on a 620 spool. The Medalist II has earned my respect.
This photo is of the old Pontiac dealership sign in Chelsea, MI. At 1200 dpi scan from my Epson scanner, there is a lot of detail there...

6x9 wonder

Friday, August 08, 2008

Argus Day 080808

Argus Day 080808
Originally uploaded by mfophotos.

Today is the eighth Argus Day, Argust 8th. Fittingly, it's on 080808. So, grab your Argus camera and shoot some photos with it.

This is one of my Argus C-4s. Ready to seize the day. Marjorie and I plan on walking around during lunch and do some shooting. She's using a C-3.
Previous Argus Days have been fun events. Last year, it was bittersweet, as it was the last time I saw my friend George O'Neal. He passed away a week later. Photography has always been about capturing a moment. Make sure you capture a moment today.

Sunday, July 20, 2008


I see all kinds of things passed around on the net as facts, whereas they are really opinions. Sometimes there are such blatant misconceptions in photographic forums, that I wish I could throw an Argus brick (C-3) at the posters. Some gems go like this:
"I need a pro camera so I can take better photos"
"I want to sell my (insert camera system here) and get a ____ SLR, so I can take better photos"
"Old lenses are not as good as the modern lenses"
"I need to buy a Nikon D200 because I want to do portraits and weddings, and if I use my D40, people will think I'm not a pro"
"I need to go and spend about a grand so that I have the lights, etc. I need for portraits."

and the list goes on... People looking to upgrade their equipment thinking that it will improve their photographs. Of course, the camera companies would have you believe that this endless treadmill of upgrading WILL improve your photos. All things being equal -- the Nikkormat bought in 1973 is as capable of taking great photos as the Nikon F6. Of course, the newer cameras will have features that were unheard of back then. The microcomputers running in these new cameras are fantastic -- you should never have a badly exposed image again. However... hear me out. Just because someone has the newest camera body and lenses, does not mean that their photos will be "better." Composition, subject matter, aesthetics, meaningfulness, relevancy, artistry, colors, tonal values, etc., are issues that come from the photographer, not the camera.

OK, to the heart of this post --

This entry came about when I was looking through 5 rolls of processed black and white negatives on my light table, and had scanned some of them in already and viewed them on my monitor. I wasn't in the least bit surprised that they came out so well, considering that I was using the following:

A 30-something year old Nikon FE that I bought for less than $50 on ebay, and a 40+ year old Nikon 85mm f/1.8 Nikkor lens that I bought used in 2003. The film was Agfa APX 100, developed in Rodinal, 1:25.

What was I shooting? Actually, it was whom I was shooting. My friend Kelley posed for me in my backyard for a couple of hours and I think I came away with pretty nice images. What myth did I dispel? Well, for one, the Nikon FE is getting old, as SLRs go these days, and this one is kind of beat up outside. It works well, though, and the metering is really accurate. So, it is nowhere near a "pro-looking" camera. The lens came from a sale at the UM Photoservices in 2003, as they were selling off a lot of older equipment in their transition to a digital workflow. That 85mm 1.8 lens is a wonderful portrait lens, and I snapped it up. You can see it has had so much studio use that the paint is worn off the barrel. You will also notice I have the matching lens hood. IMPORTANT. A lens hood on that lens is a great idea. Everyone should use lens hoods more often. I was shooting outdoors, so I didn't need lighting -- just some reflectors.

My shooting style for portraits is to crop in the viewfinder, so generally, my portraits fill the frame. I also like using natural light, but will use lights when I need to. Using the Nikon FE (it could be any manual focus Nikon, for that matter) with the 85mm lens is such a different experience than using my D70s. For one, the image is brighter, larger, and easier for me to see. Two, it's just shutter speed and aperture and the meter. No other things to worry about except posing and making sure all the elements you want are in the shot.

So, let's see. Can you tell if these were made with a "pro" or "amateur" camera? Of course not. If you have an image in a magazine, hanging on a wall, or in a book -- nobody will care what camera you used (if they are not some camera geek). Neither will your client - if the images meet his/her expectations. So, my advice is to shoot, shoot, shoot, and learn. You can ask all you want about what lens to buy, and so on, but you have to use them! You'll soon figure out what works for you. At some point, you will realize that your camera doesn't matter. It's your eye and experience that provide better photos, not the newest wonder from Nikon, Canon, or Pentax, etc.

Oh, one last comment about the "pro" thing. How you conduct yourself, how you deal with the assignment, and the results you deliver will have far more bearing on how people perceive you than what camera you have in your hand.